Friday, April 22, 2005

Hate Women? Moi?

Finally, I've had a letter in SX critical of one of my columns. I've had the odd complimentary letter so this was a bit of a deal for me.

From Gail Hewison @ The Feminist Bookshop, Lilyfield:

Your columnist Queer Penguin is correct in everything he says about the injustice and homophobia in the recent jailing of two gay men in Fiji.

However his denigration of Schapelle Corby in the same article is unfair and bordering on misogynous, describing her as a "former Gold Coast beauty student who cries a lot on camera" and "who claims she has been set up". Queer Penguin insinuates that she is deliberately using her beauty and sexuality to gain favours.

She is, in fact, a young Australian woman, probably set-up, who faces the death penalty from a court only too happy to make an example of her. The Australian Government has been very much on the back foot in supporting her, and has only recently taken an interest in her case. Initially she was left to sink or swim.

Lack of support by the Australian Govt both for Schapelle Corby and Thomas McKoskar has been disgraceful, but predictable. Hopefully in a short time both will have been cleared and released. But in the meantime I think they both deserve all the support possible from members of the GLBTI community.

A fair bit to respond to here. Firstly, I am no misogynist. Homo men who hate women are about as appealing and likeable as gonorrhea. My mum brought me up to respect and value women under the quite reasonable threat of catapultation. However, I take Ms Hewison's point that I may have gone too far about Corby.

Look, I'll be honest: I believe Schapelle Corby is guilty. I have absolutely nothing to back up my position other than a hunch and her likely conviction (which I realise is by no means a guarantee), and if anyone would like to provide a concise argument outlining why she's likely not guilty - other than the "reality" that young women are often targetted and set up for drug trafficking in Asian airports - then please feel free to do so. Ultimately, it's a they said, she said situation.

I certainly don't believe she should be executed - I don't support capital punishment in any situation - and if she is wrongly sentenced to life imprisonment she is at least alive while evidence can be produced to shown she's innocent and could therefore be released. Putting her before a firing squad would somewhat limit this avenue.

But I referred to her crying in front of the camera because, like her "fainting" in court, I think it's for show. I believe she's crying not because she's innocent but because she got caught. Again, I realise this is only a theory, please don't think I'm being gratuitously heartless or cruel.

McKoskar, by comparison, is by definition guilty of the "crime" of homosexuality in Fiji. I've pretty much exhausted all I want to say about this case in previous posts, but I stand by my original conclusion that something is wrong when our government prioritises diplomatic aid to overseas Australians based not on the injustice of their situation or the legal ambiguity on which they are convicted, but on the physical appeal and/or sexuality of the Australian in question and whether or not they have behind them the force of the commercial media and a million "Save Schapelle" petitions circulating in cyberspace.

I had an interesting chat with my flatmate last night about whether or not McKoskar should have been aware that homosexuality is a crime in Fiji which comes with a possible 14-year sentence. Certainly, both he and I, as politically aware gay men who at least know the countries where homosexuality is punishable by death, did not know it was so great a crime in Fiji. It's a bit of an "reasonable person" test and I realise it doesn't really apply in these sorts of foreign law transgressions, but it's definitely clear that, unlike Bali airport has with drugs, to my knowledge there are not lots of big signs warning that "homosexuality is a crime!" when you first arrive in Fiji.

Corby could not have missed these warnings - and where probably 8/10 people in Australia would know that drug trafficking in Indonesia is punishable by death, maybe 2 or 3/10 would know for certain that homosexuality is a crime in Fiji - so if she is guilty, then she's really not so much an innocent victim as a very stupid person. And stupidity crosses all genders.

This is a sitution where I would honestly like to be proved wrong - that Corby is innocent and definitive evidence is found to show this and that she is released.


At 22/4/05 6:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Q,

Happy to hear that Downer is actually talking about a deal with Indonesia to swap prisoners in Shrubs declared war on drugs.

Call me liberal but I still reckon capital punishment for anything, is crass and playing into Texus Crude!

At 22/4/05 7:00 pm, Anonymous maddy said...

If she is guilty, then why would she take a 'commercial' amount of drugs which have a street value in Australia approximately 4 times higher than in Indonesia? She had travelled to Bali/Indonesia a number of times before and must have been aware of the dangers - why would she take drugs this time?

As you can probably tell I am extremely doubtful that she is guilty. The other nine (apart from the fact that they were caught with the drugs taped to their bodies) were at least carrying the drugs in the logical direction...

At 22/4/05 7:09 pm, Blogger Brownie said...

re your hunch: Corby was not travelling alone - there were several others with her including a younger male.
Death penalty is not civilised anytime.
re Fiji: the law changed in 1998 to remove penalties for gays. I keep wondering how 'authorities' found out about the 2 men being happy together.

At 22/4/05 7:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Further, I would allow the Indonesian court to make up there own mind on this womens' future.

Let's wait for the verdict. Different legal system and French in style.

Fiji, penquin what is latest?

Glad , I am not a young lawyer having to get my head around local legal systems. We live in Asia and still think our shit does not stink.

At 22/4/05 7:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's face it.
A war on Drugs and Terrorism ,single mothers,gays,unemployed,gypsys is making the world crazy.

At 23/4/05 11:30 am, Blogger Sam said...

The latest in the Fiji situation is that Aust has finally come to McKoskar's aid by lodging a formal complaint saying that the Fijian authorities did not advise the Australian High Commission of McCosker's arrest and trial, effectively denying him consular access. And now the Democrats are calling for gay sex travel warnings, which I think is a fine idea.
Brownie: they were found out because the younger man had stolen a sum of money from McKoskar, and when he went to report it they asked how he knew this man. Not so great when you go into a police station as a victim of a crime and get arrested instead! Also, 1998 wasn't so much a change in the law as a constitutional amendment prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. I think this will be the test to set a precedent as to whether or not the law under which McKoskar was convicted is indeed unconstitutional.

At 23/4/05 12:32 pm, Blogger weezil said...

Sam, there's too many fundamentally illogical things that would have to have happened for Corby to be guilty.

The point is made by others that there's no profit motive in shipping pot to Indonesia. It's comparable to making ice cubes in Mexico and shipping them to Canada.

We're talking about buds worth around $A44,000 (by the ounce) in Sydney or Brisbane. The same amount of buds in Denpasar would attract around $A3600. Why would she do it?

Corby does not appear to be mentally handicapped; she certainly was aware that cannabis possession and trafficking is illegal in many countries, most notably in Indonesia. Why then were the transparent, pillowcase sized plastic bags used to contain the 4.1kg of buds not so much wrapped in a beach towel? It seems the buds were simply hastily jammed inside a boogie board bag which was close to the same size.

A boogie board bag made a convenient vessel compared to any other luggage item because there was plenty of spare space in that sort of bag.

Also, you'd think that anyone involved with moving buds around might smoke some from time to time. Anyone who can get kilos of the stuff would be apt to smoke a LOT of it.

Corby voluntarily was urine tested for THC- and came up negative. THC can stay in the body for many weeks

Corby's story has got legs.

I have noted some writers of late attempting to assert Corby is guilty, but their case is generally no better than the Bali prosecution's.

Moreover, the mishandling of the evidence by police and court officers (even by Chief Judge Linton Siriat) such that usable fingerprints could not be obtained means they cannot prove that Schapelle did put the buds in the bag. Schapelle also did not travel in the aircraft's cargo hold. Her bags were out of her sight and control from when she checked them in Brisbane until she collected them in Denpasar. Opportunity existed for someone to load up her bags without her knowledge.

I suspect that some writers, when they see a preponderance of media coverage on one side of an event, believe that there's more to the issue and that something is innately wrong or being covered up.

In this case, the media has gotten it right.

At 23/4/05 12:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sad lack of media interest in the McKoskar case is scary. Heard it once on the A.B.C. news and buried. Back to constant coverage of Johs' last moments,just like the boring details of the popes.Corby case gets similar blanket coverage.

At 23/4/05 1:07 pm, Blogger weezil said...

I absolutely agree that the McCosker story has been unfairly ignored.

McCosker actually has a much better case than does Corby.

McCosker and his lover were convicted on laws that were made invalid by the passage of the 1997 rewrite of the Fiji constitution which was ratified on 27 July 1998. This constitution contains language which asserts sexual orientation as a protected right and forbids discrimination on that basis.

Conservative xtians in Fiji don't like that proviso one bit and have tried several times, including back door, late night parliamentary manoevres, to remove it. So far, the sexual orientation protections remain.

On the facts, McCosker and partner were prima facie railroaded. They should never have been arrested, much less tried and convicted.

We'll see what Fiji is made of when this goes to appeal. If the appeals court sides with the lower court, it will be confirmed that Fiji is not bound by the rule of their own law.

I can't imagine any Australian tourist wanting to support an arbitrary and capricious religionist regime. The vast majority of Fiji's tourism income is from Australian tourists.

If the Fijians can do without us, we sure as hell can do without them.

I'm waiting for McCosker's case to make it to the appeals court before posting on it again.


At 23/4/05 5:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone imagine a deal by Downer to swap prisoners with Fiji as he proposes, with Indonesia?

McKoskar spends 2 years of jail, in Australia, for his supposed crime. No comments on Corby case, until they make there decision. Still reckon that speculation, one way, or the other is unfortunate.


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